Instructional Designers: Create Workbooks, not Manuals

How many binders do you have on your bookshelf? A lot, right? Just about everyone has taken a training class and been given a training binder, taken it back to their desk, and never opened it again. It's crazy. So many people have have all these training binders on their desks just collecting dust.

So why do instructional designers continue creating manuals that never get used except during class? Do they do it because they know it assists learning? Or is it just because they think participants gotta-halfta-needa binder during class?

I would love to hear your thoughts on this issue, because as it turns out, I am writing a thick training guide on a software system for my organization. I'm choosing to create a manual that has lots of white space, areas for making notes, and do-it-yourself activities. To look at my training manual without having taken the class, you'd probably think it didn't explain the software at all. But having taken the class — and filled in all those blanks throughout — the manual will have a lasting usefulness. Now that's user-generated training.

Here's my intention: I'm not writing a user guide. I'm writing a workbook. I'm doing this based on the premise that most people don't have the cognitive capacity to do all of the following tasks at the same time:

  1. Listen to the facilitator
  2. Watch the steps on the overhead projector
  3. Take notes
  4. Try it themselves
  5. Read a page full of lengthy text descriptions of every feature on the screen

So I'm eliminating No. 5 and not documenting in the manual the full detail of every task that can be performed with the software. My hope is that learners will use their manuals after training if they know most of the content in the manual was created by them — call it Training Manuals 2.0.

What am I missing? Please comment below.

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